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India’s top court to hear final appeal on gay sex ban

By AFP   |   02 February 2016   |   9:56 am

GavelIndia’s top court is expected to hear a final challenge Tuesday to a colonial-era ban on gay sex, a case closely watched by rights campaigners in the world’s biggest democracy.

The Supreme Court’s three most senior judges will review a 2013 decision to reimpose the ban contained in India’s criminal code which enables the jailing of homosexuals.

“We are hopeful that the senior-most judges will see the gross mistake in the 2013 judgement,” said Tripti Tandon, lawyer for the Naz Foundation, one of several gay-rights groups and campaigners which filed the review.

“Section 377 (of the criminal code) violates the fundamental right to privacy, equality, dignity and non-discrimination.”

The appeal is the latest chapter in a long-running legal saga between India’s social and religious conservatives and the gay community over the law passed by the British in the 1860s.

Six years ago, the Delhi High Court effectively legalised gay sex in a landmark ruling that said the ban infringed on the fundamental rights of Indians.

That 2009 ruling emboldened the still largely closeted gay community which started to campaign publicly against widespread discrimination and violence.

But the Supreme Court reinstated the ban four years later in 2013, saying responsibility for changing the law rested with lawmakers not the courts.

Members of the gay community and campaigners have now lodged the last-ditch curative petition — or appeal — to the Supreme Court to have the judgement reviewed and overturned.

Prosecutions for gay sex are rare, but activists say corrupt police use the reimposed law to harass and threaten homosexuals. The gay community says criminalising homosexuality makes its members vulnerable to blackmail.

Gay sex has long been a taboo subject in conservative India, where homophobic tendencies abound and some still regard being gay as a mental illness.

A lawmaker’s attempt to introduce a private member’s bill into parliament to decriminalise gay sex failed in December.




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